Canada all fired up by Own the Podium campaign

Fri Feb 19, 2010 5:44pm EST
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By Larry Fine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's stated aim of winning a lion's share of medals in their home Games has led to high excitement in the streets of Vancouver and hopes for a lasting legacy, Canadian Olympics chief Chris Rudge said on Friday.

"Excitement in this town is palpable," Rudge told a news conference. "I have never seen this kind of excitement in the streets, everywhere around the city. Where have we ever seen medals celebrations with 20,000 to 25,000 people?"

Rudge said shedding the customary Canadian reserve with a bold 'Own the Podium' campaign may have made the difference.

"Maybe in some small way our talk of 'Own the Podium' and having a higher level of performance by Canadian athletes has also engaged Canadians," he added. "I hope so and I hope that is a legacy of the Games."

Canadian chef de mission Nathalie Lambert was a 12-year-old Montrealer when the 1976 Games were held there, and was in the Canadian speedskating team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

"It doesn't compare to what we're seeing here," she said. "This is over the top, overwhelming."

After six days of competition, Canada was fourth in the standings with seven medals, including three gold.

"I've seen six out of the seven medals that we have. At every site it's like a hockey final game of the Stanley Cup," Lambert said. "I think it really shows that Canada is changing the way it's supporting amateur sports."   Continued...

<p>Gold medallist Christine Nesbitt (C) of Canada stands with silver medallist Annette Gerritsen (L) and bronze medallist Laurine van Riessen of the Netherlands as her national anthem is played during the medal ceremony for the women's 1000 metres speed skating competition at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 18, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>